Examination Overview

The Final Doctoral Exam at UBC has two stages:

  • the External Examination and
  • the Final Oral Defence.

In the External Examination, an arm's-length expert in the subject of the dissertation (the External Examiner) reviews the document and decides whether or not it is ready to proceed to the Final Oral Defence. This decision is expressed as a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and is typically supported with a detailed analysis of the document's strengths and weaknesses, guided by UBC's expectations as laid out in the Instructions for Preparing the External Examiner's Report. Candidates are encouraged to review this document before submitting their dissertations for examination. The External Examiner's assessment and recommendation is submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in the form of a written External Examiner's Report. A recommendation from the External Examiner to proceed to the Oral Defence is required before that event can take place.

In the Final Oral Defence, an Examining Committee that combines UBC faculty members from the Supervisory Committee with arm's length colleagues (and also, possibly, the External Examiner) hears the Candidate present a synopsis of the work and then questions the Candidate. The Committee's task is to determine whether the Candidate's written work, oral presentation, and interactions meet the standards of excellence required for a doctoral degree. Please see Final Oral Defence for the evaluation protocol.

Every Final Doctoral Oral Examination is a public event. Attending the examination of a candidate in a field close to one's own is an excellent way to learn what to expect. See Upcoming Exams for a list of scheduled Doctoral Examinations.


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